April 2017

What a difference one month makes.  We went from this on April 1, behind the shop…

…to this in about three weeks.  These are sweet, or English violets (Viola odorata),  the ones with that wonderful fragrance.

The older I get, the more I appreciate the coming of spring.  The smells of the violets and leaf mold, running water, and sunlight on pine needles.  And the sounds: spring peepers, kestrels, tree swallows, wood thrushes, and grouse drumming.  It’s a time of rapid transition.  Today there are still piles of dirty snow in shady areas, there are also daffodils, and trout lilies, and the red and sugar maples in full bloom.  Yes, the black flies are out too, but that’s all part of spring in Maine.

The high point of the month was the Fine Woodworking Live event in Southbury, MA.  Held at an old optical factory, with attached hotel in the back, everything took place in one location: rooms, dining, drinking, workshops, lectures, meet & greet, vendors, banquet, and all the socializing.

The usual suspects were there, Fortune, Gilpin, Pekovich, Rodel, Hack, Latta, Johnson, Hunter, Kenney, Masachi, Tesolin, Breed, van Dyke, Binzen, Follasbee, Cullen, Corum, and myself.  What a crew.  The event was sold out, and was a major success. The folks at FWW did an amazing job of planning and logistics.

Last weekend, the Maine Wood Products Association organized a field trip to the University of Maine at Orono (my Alma mater), to tour the Advanced Structures & Composites Center.  I was amazed and astounded at the scope of the research going on.  We got to see work on cross-laminated timber structural panels, wood-resin composites, oriented strand timbers, particle board made without formaldehyde,  and stress testing on a 50 m (164 ft.) wind turbine blade.  IMG_2607.JPGThis photo taken by Andy Walsh, shows Dr. Douglas Gardner explaining the testing of a single turbine blade.  Amazing stuff, and well worth the trip.

Back to small scale woodworking.  Not all of it takes place in the shop, some actually outside in the forest.  Not just by woodworkers… IMG_9083.jpgA Pileated woodpecker has been busy on this hemlock.  Once the holes are a bit larger, the cavities might be inhabited by kestrels or saw-whet owls.

Meanwhile, in my shop I’m two days away from completing another 15-drawer chest.  The front has to be sanded, knobs installed, and then a few coats of oil-varnish mix. It looks rather plain and unadorned, just the way I like it. Yet, it is a rather involved piece, consisting of almost 200 parts and just under 300 dovetails.

Figuring the wood movement for each drawer involves a fairly straight forward calculation and a dial caliper to determine the size of the gap to leave for each.

And of course, ten different size knobs have to be hand turned to be in proportion for each drawer level.  They are graduated from 5/8″ (1.6 cm) to 7/8″ (2.2 cm) in diameter and height.


C. H. Becksvoort © 2017

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March 2017

It’s been pretty snowy here in Maine.   We got about 16″ mid month, on top of what we already had.  Spirit enjoyed it.  I didn’t.  Time spent shoveling is time not in the shop.  I wasted an entire day clearing the driveway, the roof and a path around the house.The snow hasn’t been in a hurry to leave, either.  This is what our walk through the woods looked like yesterday.So, a good bit of time was spent indoors.  First, I built another Deer Isle Granite table.  Next up was a rolling Free Library cabinet.  The upper section with shelves is two sided, one side 9″ deep, the other 7″.  The bottom is open for large books, atlases and magazines. Then, another Shaker round stand, the cool one with the wine bottle post.  The turning is pretty straight forward,  although after 40 years, I’m slowly getting the exact shape down to where it looks identical to the original.  The transition to the wide part of the post is quite low, and very gradual.Once the three legs are cut, shaped, dovetailed, tapered and sanded, they have to be let into the post.  I prefer to do that by hand, as opposed to a router.  I transfer the dovetail profile onto the post,  make two stopped saw cuts and go at it with chisel and mallet.  First, the bulk of the waste is chopped and pared away.  Then I apply graphite to the leading edges of the dovetail and force it into the slot.  The graphite shows where more material needs to be pared off. Usually 6-10 tries to get to the end.  Each slot takes about 20 minutes.  Once the legs are glued, the bottom is rasped, filed and sanded flush.  The legs just flow right  into the post at that 1/8″ shoulder.  And the radius of the post continues down the top edge of the legs.  Then the top brace is drilled, beveled, sanded, glued and wedged to the top tenon.  Finally the top is cut, edged and sanded  to 500 grit.  For this stand I had a figured board that had been in the attic for almost 30 years.  Great color, and the figure really popped out.  Hard to see on a photo, but the light shift when moving the top, was quite impressive.Next on the agenda is another 15-drawer chest.  It will take a while, but it’s such fun to build.  Just under 300 dovetails.  Sit, chop, listen to music.Here it is on the last day of March, and we’re in for another snow.  No fooling.

C. H. Becksvoort © 2017



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February 2017

Winter drags on.  Not as cold as in past years, but lots of snow.  Within 9 days we got over 50″ (1.27 m) of snow.  Running our of places to pile it, especially between the house and shop.  There’s just a narrow passageway.img_9022On Monday the 13th, I spent the entire day with the snowblower, and shovel.  The better part of the day I was on the showroom roof, dumping snow.  A few days later, we had a good thaw, and a big portion melted away.  So it goes.   The sun comes up earlier each day, so now when I walk the dog each morning, it’s already light and by the time we get back it’s sunny.  This time of year I always cut a few forsythia twigs to force.  That, and a bunch of purchased daffodils, makes it appear almost spring-like in the front room.img_9032

I’ve been running a few ads in Zest magazine, and have been featured on their web site.  Its interesting, since many of the folks also featured are fellow crafts people whom I’ve either made things for, bought from, or are just friends and acquaintances.  Nice.  Have a look

Despite all the snow, I still got work done in the shop.  Finished up that two drawer wall shelf , and sent it on it’s way to Virginia.img_9038Those turned legs from last month?   They became a matched set of side stands, a bit smaller than usual.  I just finished them, and sent them on to a customer in Oklahoma. img_9035Next up, a rolling, two sided, lending library.

In my spare time, such as it is, I’ve spent the past five months working on a new book for the Lost Art Press.  So far I’ve got nine chapters, out of twelve, with photos yet to be started.  The (so far) untitled book will have three sections:  the basics (of woodworking), the business, and the inspiration, featuring several Shaker pieces as well as a few of my own designs.  There may even be a few measured drawings, if I can get my act together.  The manuscript is due next fall, while the book should be available in 2018.  It all takes time.

C. H. Becksvoort © 2017

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January 2017

January is a mostly dismal month, this year being no exception, only worse.  Snow, rain, ice, snow, thawing, freezing and more snow.  Did I mention mud?img_8956Blue and depressing about sums it up. However, I try not to let cabin fever interfere with my food life.  Although this is not a food blog, I can’t help showing my latest creation, spicy baked potatoes.  Red potatoes, cut in half, scored and rubbed in olive oil mixed with Shaker Bouquet Garni.  Tasty, especially with a few Brats.img_8949One more item of interest.  As a woodworker I appreciate the work of other crafts people. In my opinion, a handmade piece, created by a master in his/her craft, beats any off the shelf, factory made piece every time.  Our home is full of beautiful works of art, made by folks I admire.   Recently I purchased one of Tim Christiansen’s small cups decorated with salamanders. My daughter loved it, and so I passed it on to her.  Tim makes black and white porcelain pottery incised by a method known as sgraffito.   I asked Tim if he could make me a cup decorated with a Kestrel.  This is the finished product.  Really beautiful.  Yes, single malt scotch can be quaffed out of a porcelain cup, especially one this nice.img_8976

Back to the original intent of this blog:  wood, furniture and goings on around the shop.  I finished and worked in a few small projects and then started a wall shelf.  The one with two drawers.  It’s a fun and a challenging piece to build.img_8958

The customer requested small granite pulls, as I had made on the prototype.  Drilling granite is not my idea of a good time.  Diamond bits are expensive and must be run fairly slow, with lots of water to keep the bit cool.  Not easy on the drill press.  I used a glass tub with a wooden insert, a plastic clamp and two hold downs to keep everything in place.  One hand operates the drill press, the other squirts water.img_8980After the drilling is done, and the stone has dried, I snip off the end of a stainless wood screw, and epoxy it into the hole.  It’s then ready to be attached to the drawer front, like any other knob.img_8981A few days ago, I started a matching set of two small Shaker side stands.  They feature a rather tricky turning often found on pieces from the Enfield, NH,  Shaker community.  Just below the square portion of the leg, a cut is made straight in, to form a small ring, and then the swell taper is formed down the rest of the leg.  It takes a steady hand to bring the lathe tool into a spinning square, without knocking off any of the corners.  img_8983I figure that nine legs (I always make one extra, just in case) is a pretty good mornings work, even with phone calls and coffee breaks.  The scribe line at the fullest diameter of the swell taper is really cool.  Those Shaker craftsmen knew what they were doing.img_8988

My schedule of Events for 2017 is now listed on this site.

C.H.Becksvoort © 2017

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December 2016

Another year gone by.  A mixed blessing.

The past year in the shop had a variety of items from repaired hammered dulcimers and rocking horses to spinning tops, a contemporary blanket box  and those huge elm table tops.  I’ve got a good lineup for 2017, and am looking forward to getting more pieces into the hands of appreciative customers.

December surprised us with a variety of weather, and three good snow storms.  Temperatures ranged from a high of 50° (10°C), then a few days later it it dropped to -12° (-24°C).  Quite the contrast. Here is what it looked like, if you use your imagination:img_8924The first two snowstorms were nothing to write home about. However, on the 30th, just when we thought we’d go through December without the snowblower, we got a nice Nor’easter.  Portland got mostly rain and a few inches, farther inland, the accumulation was greater and the heavy we snow broke branches and caused power outages.  In our area, even further inland, we got 15″ (38cm), not too wet, thank goodness, so none of our trees were damaged.  Northwest of here, they got about 25″ (64cm) of powder.  The next morning was nice an sunny.  That’s my van on the left. img_8941In the shop I stayed busy as well.  Did a little private tutoring, some repairs, and a prototype that went into the wood stove.  Then I built seven of my small wall cabinets.  They are quite involved, and include half blind dovetails top and bottom, adjustable shelves, tiny extruded hinges, a mini turned knob, and restoration glass doors.  I made five out of cherry, one elm, and one out of fumed, quarter sawn white oak.  There is a reason I use mostly cherry.  The oak and elm are not fun to work.  img_8926A few month ago I got an email from a reader wanting to know how I nailed my  glass retainer strips  into the doors.  The strips are only 3/16″ x 1/8″ (.48 x .32 cm).  On doors this small and strips that tiny, hammers don’t work.  Here is the way I do it.  Have fun.

Finally, check the  Events page.  I’ve already scheduled a workshop at Lie- Nielsen Toolworks, June 10-11…

Best wishes for 2017.

C. H. Becksvoort © 2016

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November 2016

It’s not quite winter yet, but it’s on the way.  We had two days of flurries, that didn’t  amount to much.  On the other hand, it was easier to take than the foot or so they got in Northern Maine.  So I guess we’ve been lucky up to now.  It’s only a matter of time…

img_8891After a few months of work, many headaches, and way more time than I’d planned on, the two huge Herbie tables were finally delivered.  The tops are single boards, 50″ wide and  112″long.  The bases are polished stainless steel tubing.  img_6403Now that those two giants were out of the way, I actually got a few other projects going in the shop.  First, an oval walnut mirror, 24″ x 36″.  Working with cherry constantly, it’s a real treat to use black walnut for a change.  It turned out well, and even has a bit of figure in the top and bottom curves.img_8878The big November project was a blanket box.  I’d been saving  five slabs of clear white pine for almost 18 years.  Good and dry.  Single boards, all the way around.  After trimming the sapwood, the case was still 21″ tall.   CHB casesLiking the looks of the walnut mirror, I decided that the box needed a little contrast.  Nice dark walnut molding around the lid.  To avoid ribs under the lid to keep it flat, I ran a dovetail groove into the pine ends, and incorporated a dovetail directly into the molding, which worked well and looks pretty cool.  Here is the back of the case.CHB casesThe molding is chamfered along the top and bottom edges.   To give the box a bit more of a contemporary look, I did away with the traditional bracket base, and instead, set it on an inset black walnut plinth.  It also makes the case look a bit lighter.  It’s actually quite heavy, with it’s red cedar lining.  Lastly, I had a chance to use those  beautiful custom made Damascus steel hinges. CHB cases What a gem, and FWW turned it down.

The last project was a hymn number board for the First Universalist Church in Yarmouth, Maine.  This too, was made of left over Herbie wood (American elm).  Nice color contrast, a gorgeous slab with a bevel on the top edge, a natural edge on the left side, and a rough-cut bottom edge.  It is roughly 18″ x 24″img_8899

Facebook?  Am I kidding, after the diatribe I posted in September 2011?  Well, yes and no.  I do have a facebook page, but it’s run by my wife.  So you’ll get a bit of overlap, some of the same stuff and maybe even a different point of view.  We’ll see who is more consistent.  So far I have 86 monthly posts.

C. H. Becksvoort © 2016

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October 2016

Without a doubt, October is my favorite month.  The colors, the light, the atmosphere, the lack of bugs , and the temperature all make for a great time outdoors.  We’ve had a very dry summer and were told by the powers that be, not to expect too much in the way of fall color.  On the contrary, it was a spectacular October, with brilliant colors.  Walking the dog through the woods, under red and sugar maples, the ground was littered with hues that would put a Persian carpet to shame.img_8859The month started with Maine Craft weekend.  It’s always something to look forward to, seeing friends, customers, and strangers come to the shop and showroom to chat, look, and have a few doughnuts, and cookies.  This year we had over 55 folks stop by on Saturday and Sunday.  Sold a few things, too.

The next weekend was Harvest festival at the Sabbathday Lake Shaker village.  I had a small display in the barn.  The weather was great, the people friendly, and the food, displays, and demonstrations were lots of fun.img_8847Sold a few books and DVDs, the pine wall clock found a new home, and I caught up with many of the Friends of the Shakers. At lunch I snuck out for a few photos.  This is a view of the Virginia creeper along the stone retaining wall at the Shaker cemetery.  Fall in Maine is amazing.img_8869While 2015 was the October of apples, this year there were very few.  Instead, it was the year of a most prolific mast crop.  I’ve never seen so many acorns.img_8870You couldn’t walk under an oak tree without stepping on them.  The deer and turkeys will have a good winter.  Likewise the squirrels and chipmunks. Black walnuts  like never before. I got almost a bushel, and have them shelled and drying.  A few I save out to plant around town, part of my ongoing guerilla forestry project.img_8850We had a Maine Woodworkers meeting at my shop this month.  It’s been a few years since the last one here.  Quite the gathering.  I gave a brief overview illustrated with pictures of 20 or 30 items produced by the Herbie Project, back in 2010. There were really great pieces from New England’s largest elm, made by some of Maine’s best woodworkers.  The two Herbie table tops are still at the finishers, and are awaiting their stainless steel bases.

I got my smiling face onto the printed page several times this month.  First, the cover of FWW.  The standing desk article was  the fastest turn-around from building to print, that I’ve experienced in 28 years with the magazine.  Anissa did a great job, many thanks.  And it’s also the first of the new cover designs.  Much cleaner.  Looks great, Mike.w257-1

The annual FWW Tools & Shop issue features my under the work bench storage cabinet.  It was fun and easy to make, and has made a huge difference in  organizing all those clamps, bits, glue bottles, hold downs, dogs, and other assorted detritus that previously had no place to call home.

A major treat, and a great honor, was to be featured in Nick Offerman’s new book, Good Clean Fun.  A whole chapter, no less!  Get yourself an autographed copy, direct from Nick at  the Offerman WoodShop  Or you can trot down to the local book emporium and pick up a copy there.  In either case, it’s an entertaining and informative tome.9780451484994_p0_v4_s192x300

C. H. Becksvoort © 2016

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